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I'm new to this thread, but I wanted to add some comments.

First of all, congratulations on taking the initiative to seek out opinions, recommendations, and ideas from those around you, including your consultation with a fee-only planner and posters on the Fool message boards. You are ultimately the only individual responsible for making your financial decisions, and I applaud you for asking questions first before proceeding with any quick decisions.

Your quote of $4,000 for a comprehensive financial plan from a NAFPA advisor may seem high at first, but consider what you receive. Not only does the plan include recommendations on investments, but I assume the plan identifies opportunities with your health benefits, insurance needs, tax issues, relevant estate planning items, and your personal legacy. A NAPFA planner is a fiduciary, an individual you trust that acts upon your best interests. In addition, it is likely that the planner you engaged holds certain professional designations, many of which require continuing eduction credits and ethics instruction.

Now consider what services you may receive from a full-service broker. Most importantly, a broker is not a fiduciary and is not obligated to act in your best interests. That means that once your transactions are complete, your broker is under no obligation to follow up on your plan (but he or she is likely to do so in the future because they will have a new product to sell, I mean, recommend). Also, your broker is most likely to focus on investments in your financial plan, since that is most likely how he or she earns money. Your tax, insurance, benefit, and estate issues may not be comprehensively addressed.

Now, not all brokers are bad, but you must admit that it is difficult for many people to ignore financial incentives when involved in business. Most brokers get paid when they sell products, so they are inclined to sell products that pay them appropriately. There is nothing inherently wrong with the practice as long as this method of compensation is clearly and explicitly disclosed to you. That means you are responsible for reading every word of every document handed to you, because important disclosure information is contained inside, and if you don't read it, it's your own fault.

So consider investing your $400,000 with a broker that provides a "free" plan for you. It's likely that the plan may recommend mutual funds. In order for the broker to get paid, these funds are likely to feature loads. Most common loads are front end loads (usually designated as class A shares of funds). Now when you buy A shares of mutual funds, most compaies give you what is called "breakpoints" if you buy enough of one fund. Let's assume a fund charges a 5.75% load for purchases under $50,000. They may lower the load to 4.75% if you buy between $50,000 and $100,000. This information is included in the prospectus of every fund (where applicable) usually deep inside on page, oh I don't know, 65.

Perhaps your broker's plan will recommend 10 funds for full diversification. That seems reasonable. Now your broker recommends funds from 10 different fund families because "each one of the fund managers has demonstrated the ability to consistently pick winners in each sector." Well guess what, since you aren't buying $400,000 worth of funds from the same fund company, you don't benefit from the reduction in loads. That means you might pay the full 5.75% up front load on all ten funds! Not all brokers will do this, but many on this board can relate stories where they have seen this happen. It mainly depends on the integrity and ethics of the individual you happen to deal with, so don't believe that this happens to each and every client on a daily basis (but it does happen frequently).

So the 5.75% load on your $400,000 investment? That boils down to a cost of $23,000 for your "free" financial plan.

Now the $4,000 comprehensive plan doesn't sound like such a bad deal after all.

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